As a Pastor and marriage coach dealing primarily with engaged couples I often relate the marriages and relationship scenarios of the Bible to what modern families face. Culturally there are major differences, however many couples find comfort in realizing that much of what they experience today, couples have been wrestling with since the beginning of time.
As blended families and the specific challenges they incur continue to rise in prevalence, it may lighten the load to know that the specific challenges facing blended families today are not new at all. Perhaps, the first blended family in history was right in the first book of the Bible. In Genesis 29 a man named Jacob falls in love with, Rachel. A woman that is said to be beautiful in form and face. In other words she was both pretty and pretty shapely. On the other hand her older sister Leah was unflatteringly referred to as, “weak of eye”.
And as I said, culturally there are some pretty significant differences, so let’s throw in a servant that each woman lends to Jacob and he is now the father of twelve sons and one daughter by four different women. From the challenges this family faced in the early days of humanity comes blended family insight that still speaks to us today:
- Favoritism. One of the fatal flaws of Jacob’s parenting style was that he had clear favorites among his children. He seems to have loved and provided for the children based on his relationship with their mother. Based on factors out of the children’s control, he determined how he would treat them. The children felt and understood the favoritism that their father held in his heart and it impacted their ability to come together. Work to recognize points of imbalance and purposefully recognize the value and place of each member of your blended family.
- Individuality. One of the outgrowths of Jacob’s obvious favoritism allowed for a hatred toward Joseph to exist within the family structure. There were two issues that his siblings had with Joseph. He was their father’s son from the woman, Rachel, that he loved and considered his real wife. Secondly, Joseph had a dream for his life that was significantly different from that of the other family members. Instead of finding support for the uniqueness of his dream, his father allowed the other siblings to harbor hatred toward Joseph. As a parent, Jacob did not allow a place where Joseph could carry out the uniqueness of his God given dream. Instead, Jacob the father, allowed his sons to suppress the individuality of Joseph and cast him out of the family.
- Firm Foundations. What is the strength of your family? Joseph’s brothers sold him to some traveling traders. As a result, Joseph ended up as a slave in Egypt, he was then falsely accused of assaulting his boss’s wife, which led to prison time. Eventually, Joseph was brought out of prison and rose to prominence in the king’s house. From his position of power, Joseph blesses the same family members that betrayed him by providing them with food, money and land during a time of famine. Joseph passed on every opportunity to repay his brothers, what we may consider what they rightfully deserved. Joseph’s interaction and treatment of his brothers was rooted in a foundation of godly higher strength and a sense of right and wrong more powerful than himself.
- Play the Role. Work toward helping each member of the family to know their role within the structure of the family. Joseph remained keenly aware of his own identity within the structure of the family. He understood that his role within the family was to preserve the life of his brothers. He remained true to who he was while also seeing his bigger role within the family.
- Families can be healed. It took a famine and about fifteen years of disconnection but eventually, in God’s time, God brings healing to the family. God created a scenario that brought about healing. As daunting as “blending” presents itself to be, this family stands as an example that with all of their challenges, God brought them to a place of peace.
- The Master’s Plan. Being a family of twelve children from four women provides enough story lines for any modern television drama. Jacob hated his first wife, loved his second wife based on how she looked, the two wives were jealous of each other. Both women also gave their husband other women and struck a deal to barter a night with Jacob for some magic flowers. Through all of that “messiness” God brings about twelve children that will become the twelve tribes of Israel and the eventual children of God, His chosen people. It is not straight forward, it is not conventional but when God had a plan for His people, He used a blended family. So with all of the challenges your blended marriage may face, do not lose sight of God’s plan of blessing for your blended family.
I pray that your modern blended family finds points of identity with this blended family of old. For every challenge a family faces, God has been strengthening and encouraging families since the beginning of time and that same strength is still available for your family today.
Does your blended family have a vision for the future?